Fernando Alonso says McLaren needs to improve despite taking a double points finish at the Bahrain Grand Prix, adding his team was “saved by the bell” as leading cars dropped out.
The Woking-based squad was left puzzled after struggling in qualifying, with both Alonso and teammate Stoffel Vandoorne knocked out in Q2, while midfield rivals Haas, Renault and Toro Rosso – newly-powered by Honda engines – all managed to get at least one car ahead of McLaren.
Alonso recovered to seventh in Sunday’s race, with Vandoorne taking eighth as McLaren moved up to third place in the constructors’ championship following back-to-back double points finishes – the first time the team has scored points in consecutive races with both its cars since 2014.
Despite progressing in the race, the Spaniard felt the result had flattered McLaren’s performance after both Red Bull drivers and Kimi Raikkonen were forced into retirement in Sakhir.
"We fixed [qualifying] on the opening lap, didn’t we?” Alonso joked after the race. “When I looked in the mirrors and I saw [Lewis] Hamilton behind I thought 'I don't know what position I'm in but it can't be too bad if Hamilton is behind’.
"We were still lacking a bit of pace in the race to be with [Nico] Hulkenberg and to attack the Haas. A pretty difficult weekend saved by the bell at the last moment with two cars in the points and with good points for the team, but we know we have to improve because today was a bit of a coincidence.”
However, Alonso – who moved up to fourth place in the drivers’ standings – said he was pleased his team has managed to make the most of its results in Melbourne and Bahrain despite lacking outright speed.
"The team did a good job with the strategy, the pit stops and reliability, we got the points, good points. Looking at how the weekend started and the pace we had it's clear we have to improve, to make a step forward. We need to raise our game, because what we have is not enough, but on Sundays we're delivering the results.
"Fifth in Australia, seventh here, that's 16 points, so it's good. What counts most is not your grid position, it's your race pace, your start, the whole first lap, your tyre management, your fuel efficiency, there are a lot of factors and we're handling better than just qualifying speed. We were too slow in qualifying and need to improve that because when we start behind we compromise our race result."